The sword is, as it were, consecrated to God; and the art of war becomes a part of our religion.” –Samuel Davies

Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Passing of John Gano

     John Gano spent his life ministering to the churches of Christ and even as a chaplain in the patriot forces during the War for Independence.  At the close of his life, he wrote out his memoirs.  This is the closing portion in his own words.

In the spring of the year 1798, I preached on Lord's day in the assembly room of the state house [KY?]. My son Stephen, who lives in Providence, (Rhode Island), this year paid me a visit, but did not stay long. He went to Cincinnati, (Ohio), to see his brother John.  My youngest son William, was then a clerk in my son John's Prothonotary Office.  He was anxious to have a collegiate education; and his two brother's [sic] encouraged him in it.  He, accordingly, with his brother Stephen, came over to consult me upon it, and I consented.  They started for Rhode Island, and went by the way of Cincinnati, and I accompanied them as far as my son Richard's, at Eagle Creek.  Here I took my last leave of my son William, who appeared much affected, and, afterwards, said he had taken his last farewell of his Father.  They proceeded on their journey and proposed visiting Doctor Thane, whose wife was sister to him.  The dear youth reached them, sick with a fever, of which he soon after died. He died, resigned to his fate, and in hopes of a blessed immortality; as I afterwards learnt by letter from my son Stephen.  Though his death much affected me, yet when I heard he died resigned, it appeared to me that it was all right; and that God had done all things well.
My sincere wish is, that all my children may live, 'till they are prepared to die; and that my prayers may be redoubled for them, knowing that ere long, both they and myself, must quit this stage of action, and go to judgment.  I see now, nothing worth living for; but to be more devoted to God, and the advantage of my family, and the church of God.  And, indeed it appears to me latterly, that I have lived beyond my usefulness; but I know I must wait for God's time, when he will unravel all the mysteries of his Providence.  I sometimes wonder, why God ever conducted me to Kentucky, when so little fruit or good effect of my poor labours have appeared, at least to myself! why, in this half dead condition, I am yet continued in life!  Yet, I have more cause to wonder, that ever God made me instrumental of good, at any time of life, or any where in the world; and that now I should be laid by, as an instrument out of use. 1

The remainder was written by a friend of Gano’s upon the passing of this great man.

The following account of the last days of Mr. Gano, is taken from a letter to one of his children, written by Mr. William Hickman, who was much with, and esteemed by Mr. Gano.  The letter, I believe, is nearly, verbatim.  Mr. Hickman observes:  ''that hearing Mr. Gano had a paralytic shock, he immediately went to see him, and asked him how he did?  He answered that he was half dead.  I did not then believe he would ever have come out of his house, again, alive.  He seemed willing to resign all to God, and to bear what he was pleased to lay on him; wishing the prayers of God's people, and that the travelling preachers would call, converse and preach.  At such times, which frequently occurred, he would sit in his chair and exhort to duty, and to flee from vice.  His longing, to get amongst his brethren, so raised his spirits, that in about a year, he ventured, in a carriage, to the Town-Fork, Bryants, and other places. When we apprehended his fatigues were too great, while preaching, some friend would support him, when he would preach with renewed ardour.
       It was the pleasure of heaven, about this time to visit the state with the out-pouring of his spirit.  This blessed harvest of souls, appeared to increase his joys, being desirous of being, as in years past, in the vineyard, although his half dead side forbid it.  When a little recovered, he would venture to the meeting house, on horse-back, where he would exhort, preach, pray and give counsel, sound and good, while he was supported by two persons to steady him.  At other times he would go to the water side at the administration of the ordinance of baptism, and advocate that mode.
       My visits to this father in Zion, being frequent, he one day, wished to have the worship of God attended in his house.  I spoke from these words; “Lord help me.”   I discovered him to be much in tears, and he appeared much affected.  When dismissed, while lying on the bed, he seized my hand, and in an extacy [sic] exclaimed, “The Lord has helped me!"  His cup appeared full and running over; and he often expressed a wish to depart, and be with Christ, which was far better; but patience he seemed to crave, and I believe God granted his request; for he had every mark of a soul waiting on God.
       On the Lord's day week, before his decease, I was in the pulpit, and observed one of the connections pass hastily across the floor and whisper to another, which led me to think some change had taken place.  After worship, I inquired, and heard he was very ill, and near his last.  I went to see him, and he appeared much altered, which induced me to think he was near home.  He appeared smiling, and in no great misery; nor would he ever own that he was.  His appetite failed him, and in the course of that week he wore away much; yet his senses and reason continued.  Myself and his family, set up the whole night, and I asked him a number of questions, being desirous of knowing the exercise of his mind.  He appeared permanently fixed on Jesus, as the rock of ages.  I asked him, what I should request of God in his behalf? His answer was, that he might enjoy his right mind, and be resigned to God's will.  His anxious eyes were upon his weeping children.  The night before he expired, I went to see him, went to the bed side and took hold of his hand, and asked if he knew me? he motioned in the affirmative.  I asked him if he was in much pain? he spoke so as to be heard, and said no.  I then asked him, if he wanted to be with Jesus? he said yes!  This was the last word, which could be understood, at least, so far as my recollection serves me.  I went to prayer with the family and friends, after which, he was taken with a fit, which continued with but little alteration till morning; when business called me away.   I bid him farewell in my mind, no more expecting to see him in life.  I went to visit another sick person in the course of the day, and called again in the evening, when I found him still breathing.  It had been my wish, for years, to close his eyes in death, should I survive him; but another call happening that evening, I left him in the hands of a faithful and able friend, and about ten o'clock of that night, being the 10th, day of August 1804, he got dismission from the church militant to the church triumphant; being in the 78th year of his age.” 2

       Lord-willing we will look at the life of another 18th century Baptist in my next post.

Christ, not man, is King!

1)      John Gano, Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano (New York: Southwick & Hardcastle, 1806), p. 128-30. 
2)      Ibid., p.133-7.

Friday, June 13, 2014

A Missing Horse and the Advance of the Gospel

     In my last post, we looked at an excerpt from the memoirs of Rev. John Gano, a Baptist preacher who was travelling the Southern Appalachians in the mid 18th century.  Here is another look into Gano’s life.

I preached, on Lord's day, at Mars-bluff; where the people attended from a considerable distance. From here, I set off again, on my journey.  I was told there was a route to Tar-river, which would shorten the distance, near fifty miles; and a person offered to accompany me ten miles, provided I would stop at a place, on the banks of Cape-Fear, [I] told him, I could not stop, for I had made an appointment at Fish-creek, and it was necessary for me to proceed, in order to fulfil it. When I arrived at the last place, I meant to have started early in the morning, to avoid the importunities of the people. I was obliged, however, to tarry some time; for, in the morning, I could not find my horse, and was fully convinced, he was put out of the way on purpose.  After hunting for him several days, in vain, I was obliged to get another.  I, however, tarried here some time and preached, and I trust to the eternal welfare of many souls.  I have often thought, what a blessing, was in my disappointment, and how anxious I then was, to avoid that opportunity, of being instrumental in the conversion of the people.  I thought it a heaven upon earth; and the remembrance of it, even at this day, produces a strong wish to see one more such time, before I die.  The people presented me a horse, which they purchased of Mr. Fuller, their former minister.
Another circumstance of a singular nature, which took place here, I cannot pass over in silence.  A man in the neighbourhood of this place, who had formerly been a preacher,  but latterly had openly professed Deism, came to hear the last sermon that I preached.   I think I spoke from these words: “Acquaint now, thyself with him, and be at peace; and thereby good shall come unto you.”  As he had been pointed out to me, I watched him closely, and could not but observe the contempt he discovered  at   the  beginning of service; but before it ended, the tears rolled down his cheeks, and when I had finished, he came to me, and urged me to stay and preach again.  I replied, I had staid so long, that all those, who had any regard for God, and his word, had improved the opportunities of coming to hear me, and those that cared not for their own souls had rejected these opportunities.  After standing a moment, he asked me, where I expected to make the next stop.  I told him, about seventy miles off, at Fish creek, in North Carolina.  He offered to bear me company.  I told him, I had company.  At this reply, I observed his countenance to change; and I felt hurt, at the answer I had given him: I turned to him, and told him, that if he wished to converse with me about his soul, I should be glad of his company.  He said, that was his wish.  The next day we started, and on the road, he convinced me of that, which, before, I did not, and probably, now, should not believe,—that there might be an Atheist in principle.  That there were many in practice, was very evident.  He told me, that doubts arose in his mind respecting the divinity of Christ, the Bible, heaven, and a hell, till those doubts became very strong; when he connected himself with a set of Deists.  He afterwards joined the Atheists, who furnished him with books and arguments which established him in his infidelity, in which he had remained till yesterday; but under that sermon, he had such impressions, that nothing, but the operation of the divine  spirit could have made.  He said, he did not then doubt the existence of a God, but believed his word.  He said, his wish was to hear those arguments answered, which the Atheists advanced, that he might be enabled to resist future attacks.  I must confess, some of his arguments, gave me a little trouble to answer, either to his or my own satisfaction. 1

     Lord-willing we will look at Gano’s life again in my next post.

Christ, not man, is King!

1)      John Gano, Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano (New York: Southwick & Hardcastle, 1806), p. 69-73.

Friday, May 30, 2014

An 18th Century Baptist Comedian?

       Some people believe that Baptist preachers have no sense of humor, but that certainly isn’t true.  Sometimes they can be very funny, just take this incident from the memoirs of John Gano as an example:

In my way to Mars-bluff [SC], on the Pedee, I lodged at the ferry-man's house.  He observed, that he believed I was a minister, and wished me to tell him, of the best and shortest way to heaven.  I told him that Christ was the best way; and that he must become experimentally acquainted with him, and believe in him, which was the hope of glory. — That after he had obtained this, the shortest way, that I knew, would be to place himself in the front of some army, in an engagement. 1

       Ok… so maybe it is an acquired taste!

       Lord willing we will take another look at the life of Rev. Gano in my next post.

Christ, not man, is King!

1)      John Gano, Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano (New York: Southwick & Hardcastle, 1806), p. 69.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

The Conversion of John Gano

       It’s been some time since my last post.  Lately I’ve had a real desire to search into the histories of some of the early Baptist ministers who lived in the American colonies.  Recently I came across the autobiographical work of the Rev. John Gano, a Baptist minister and chaplain in the Continental Army during the War for Independence.  I thought his own story of his conversion to Christ would be an encouragement to all of God’s people, and so I share it here.

In early life I had some severe convictions of sins, conscious I must die and go to judgment; and that I must be renewed by grace, or perish as a sinner.  But these convictions were transient and of short duration.  As I advanced in years, I progressed in youthful vanity and sin.  I became exceedingly anxious to excel my companions in work and amusements, and especially in their country frolics and dances.  I was frequently admonished by my Parents for working to excess, but much more frequently for my attachment to vanity.  I cannot charge myself with irreverence to my parents; but when my pious mother would expostulate with me, I seized the opportunity to vindicate myself.  One morning when I came into her presence, having been out late the night before, she fixed her eyes upon me, said not a word, and the pious parental tear stole down her cheek, which struck me with more conviction than I ever remembered to have felt before, which I could not eradicate by any reply, and which caused these reflections to sink deep in my mind: "Do my present follies cause so much pain to the most pious and most tender of parents, what must be the consequence, when they recoil on my own soul! Recoil they must, if not before, at least in the day of judgment; and there I must see this parent, whose tears now condole my case, smile an acquiescent consent in the dreadful sentence of eternal banishment from the righteous judge."  These reflections caused many resolutions, which were shame fully broken for a time; yet a sense of my dangerous situation, would, now and then, fill my mind with melancholy sensations, and doth even now, while writing it. 
When I was about fifteen years of age, my brother Stephen, who was then in his twentieth year, died.  He was, before, and in the first part of his illness, deeply concerned for the salvation of his soul, of which, before his death, he professed a strong hope.  When he expressed this hope, and what he said under his conviction, greatly engaged my resolution to seek an acquaintance, if possible, with Christ.  Probably, great part of this exercise flowed from natural affections, as time gradually wore it away. This has caused me to omit many impressions which had some appearance of convictions, such as escapes from apparent danger of death, by various means incidental to youth; the deaths of others &c. &c.  Between two and three years after this, the dysentery seized the family excepting my father and myself.  They were brought exceeding low, and a brother and two sisters fell victims to the disorder; one of whom was in her twentieth year.  It was the more alarming to me, as it brought to my mind a prediction, which had been early imposed on my father, and which I had often heard him mention with apparent cheerfulness.  Which prediction was, that he would have many children, (as in reality he had,) and that three of them should die in their twentieth year.  As I was next in point of years, this thought continually haunted me, and made me sensible that I was not prepared for such an awful change.  Whenever I could dispel those gloomy thoughts, I was more at ease, and more vile and vain than ever, which continued and even increased until the christmas before I was nineteen years of age.
That time, I had determined to spend a jovial evening with my frolicing [sic] companions.  As, however, there was a sermon to be preached on that day, near to the place where I lived, I concluded to attend both.  After sermon, my mind turned on the inconsistency of my conduct, in spending the day, where God was served, and the night, in the service of the devil.  This led me to consider more closely than ever, that if a day was regarded as the birth of Christ, a holy Saviour, through whom alone we could look for salvation, — how improper it was to spend it in open rebellion!  This brought me to a resolution, — that I would spend my time in a more consistent manner, than I had done — and, blessed be God, before the year terminated, I was brought under serious impressions, which arose from a conversation with a person, whom I supposed really pious and sincere, he advanced something, which my own soul told me was just; but vainly supposing I could shake his belief, I readily undertook to argue with him, which so confused him, that he requested me to stop; with which I cheerfully complied, being fully satisfied with the victory I had obtained.  We parted, and in a few minutes it occurred to my mind, that I had acted improperly; — that I had been instigated by the devil, to oppose truth and glory.  I appeared to myself to be a worshipper of Satan ; and it seemed that all the advantages I possessed, were employed to the dishonour of God; and I thought it was a miracle of mercy and grace, that he did not make me an everlasting monument of his displeasure.  It became my ardent wish, that if there was a possibility of pardon for my sins and transgressions, I might not rest either night or day until I obtained it: which was in some measure the case, although my trials under conviction were of long continuance.  I embraced every opportunity in my power, in attending preaching, reading godly books, and praying either mentally or aloud.  There was a total change in my company and conduct.  But I soon found by experience, what I had early learned from my Bible, that a change of heart was necessary; and that the power of God's grace only could accomplish it; which, I was afraid, would never be granted.  I was, however, determined to seek it to the latest hour of my existence.  I cannot express the anguish, with which my mind was frequently oppressed, with the idea of being eternally banished from God, in endless despair, to everlasting destruction.  I saw I deserved it, and at times concluded it was unavoidable.  My prayers were selfish and sinful.  I often thought that I offended God in asking for par don, when justice appeared so pointedly against it.  In short, I appeared to myself the vilest of sinners, more worthless and odious than the meanest reptile, and the greatest hypocrite in the world.  It appeared that what I felt was only natural remorse, and not a genuine conviction that God's wrath was the prelude of his lasting displeasure.  Impressed with these feelings I concluded I was willing to be saved, and that if I waited the assistance of God, it was all I could do: for it was by his grace that I could be saved.  This in some measure afforded me a kind of deluded ease, until I heard a sermon from these words, in Solomon's Song, 3, xi, Go forth O ye daughters of Zion, and behold King Solomon, &c.  From which discourse I plainly saw the alienation of my heart, that the fault was owing to myself if I was not saved, and that God was waiting to be gracious.  Never before, had I seen so much of the evil of my hard and obstinate heart. From that time, the nature of my conviction was altered, and my grief was greater.  I knew that I must be changed, and that it was to be effected by God, and that he would affect it was my most fervent wish. But how he could be just and save me I knew not: that he could be just and condemn me, appeared plain. In this state, I remained for some time.  And it was some satisfaction to my mind, that God would secure his own glory, and the honour of his son.  In this temper of mind, the way of salvation, through the life, death, and mediation, of the glorious Saviour, appeared plain.  I contemplated on the amazing wisdom and goodness of God, and condescension of Christ.  My soul was enraptured, amazed, and confounded, that with all my ingratitude, I could still be saved.  My mind was enlightened, and my guilt and fear of punishment was removed.  Yet, notwithstanding the alteration I felt, I am not sensible that I thought of its being a real conviction; I was afraid my convictions would not be lasting; and I prayed for a continuance of them.  I was con strained at times to rejoice in God and his salvation; and in this state continued some time, until a sermon from these words, with light and power fasted on my mind : "Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me."  I trust they were so applied, that I could not put them from me. They opened the way of salvation, the suitableness, fulness, and willingness of God; and I was enabled to appropriate them to myself, and rejoice in Christ.  This was the time, from which I dated my conversion, and I think I walked in the light of God's countenance, and had many blessed promises, which strengthened and confirmed my hope in, and humbled me before God. 1

       Lord willing we will take another look at the life of Rev. Gano in my next post.

Christ, not man, is King!

1)      John Gano, Biographical Memoirs of the Late Rev. John Gano (New York: Southwick & Hardcastle, 1806), p. 12-20.